Forced Landings IV

In which I learn how to choose a field for a forced landing, have a crack at actually doing it and attempt to be decisive, with varying results.

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Today we were going to continue working on forced landings, this time moving around the training area and selecting different fields for the landing.

I preflighted 4929 (also watching an aircraft doing some aerobatics overhead :)) and went back in for the briefing about field selection. Once again, we pinched the Boss’s office to do the briefing.

Basically, when choosing a field, there are a number of considerations to take into account. But it’s important to remember that these are only considerations, not a checklist. Generally, you want to pick your field in about 4-5 seconds, so it’s important to develop the ability to quickly assess a field and pick one to head for.

The considerations to consider:

  • W – wind
  • O – obstacles
  • S – size
  • S – shape
  • S – slope
  • S – civilisation

If you’re not heading into the wind when your engine fails, then it’s a good idea to take the time to turn into the wind as you get down to your glide speed.

Then it was time to head out and have a crack at it. We took off from 36 and headed to the northern part of the training area. J mentioned that it is far easier to find a field for a forced landing in the northern part of the training area (much flatter than the southern part) and during my test, if I just happen to stick to the northern part, then I’ll be fine 😛

The first time we attempted it, I found it quite difficult to pick a field. It definitely took me far longer than the 4-5 seconds we’re aiming for. It definitely wasn’t my best approach and towards the end I lost sight of my chosen field which didn’t exactly help.

I asked J how you work out whether a field is large enough. You can image roughly half the size of the runway, which would be plenty to land on, but basically most of the fields around Lilydale would be large enough. This made choosing a field a lot easier as I’d been thinking that half the fields were too small, so knowing that definitely made it easier to choose.

The second time around I was more on top of things. I’d been keeping an eye out for fields as we went along because I knew that sooner or later J would ‘fail’ the engine. There was a bit with trees and a stream coming up and I had a strong feeling that he’d fail it when we were over that…and I was right. My bit of planning ahead definitely helped though, and I was definitely more planned during this approach. We ended up slightly high when we got to the field though, and chose an alternate field just to the right – not entirely into the wind, but large enough to definitely land on.

The third time I was definitely getting the hang of it (well, I thought so anyway). Held the glide speed better than the previous two attempts and picked a field far more decisively. It’s interesting how quickly you get into the habit of flying along keeping an eye on what field you’d land in. This time I had time to go through my checklists etc too, previously I’d been using most of my brainpower on choosing a field and planning my approach, so this was a nice improvement. I’d actually picked two fields this time, the one I was aiming for and one further on across a fence – this turned out to be a good move since we turned out to be too high for the first field but most likely would’ve made the second one.

After that there wasn’t time to do any more forced landings, so we headed back to the field (me finding my way back without any help, yay!). I still needed a prompt on when to make the inbound call, I’ve no idea how to work out how far away from the airfield we are, I guess that’s just one of the things you learn from practice. It was pretty busy on the radio as we headed back, calls were coming thick and fast and it was kind of fun to listen for a space then jump in and do your call.

We joined crosswind and flew a normal circuit. I elected to do a flapped approach and it went fine until just before touchdown, where the nose was pointing slightly to the left but we were drifting slightly to the right and I should’ve added some left aileron and right rudder. We landed with a bit of a thump and on one wheel before the other I think. Still, I didn’t bend the plane so it’s all good. One day I will do a greaser landing!

Excitingly, next weekend I might be doing my first area solo – where I’m let loose solo in the training area. Next mission we’re going to head out to the training area and run through everything (stalls, steep turns, forced landing etc) and if I can do all that without any assistance and find my way around the training area without any assistance, then I should hopefully be let loose the next mission. 🙂

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